Thursday, December 27, 2012

october 17 to 31, 2003

October 17 a chilly, partly cloudy day, and after 3pm I went across South Bay in the motor boat, marveling at how, with no other boats around, I seem to go at unconscionable speed, and that any more than 6 horsepower would invite retribution. I checked Audubon Pond first and nothing stirred there. Then I walked along the South Bay trail to the East Trail and up to the pond. My object was to discern an otter world in the grasses below the Second Swamp Pond, but I wanted to make sure the otters weren't in the East Trail Pond. Geese were there, four not the usual six. I checked the dam latrines for scat and saw none. The wind was generally from the west, but sometimes would trick around from the north, so when I sat on the slope above the Second Swamp Pond beaver lodge, I feared the wind sometimes wafting at my back would ruin the evening. But I had a good view of the dam, the grasses where I saw the otters disappear one day, and of the upper end of the pond below the ridge over to the Lost Swamp Pond. My idea was to see otters coming in to settle for the night, and, if I didn't, I would still see the beavers. A heron and some ducks flew off as soon as I sat down. But some ducks stayed. And a magical evening began. At first glance I thought they were geese, but then I saw they were not, and after studying them with the monocular, realized they were ring necked ducks. Soon they began diving and also frisking about.

Though they don't range as widely, they are not unlike otters in their diving as a group, compared to the more methodical mergansers, these ring necks, like otters, seemed to have an attitude, a penchant for making waves probably unnecessary to the task at hand. Plus there were two or three larger ducks and several smaller, probably cocks and hens, but from the look of it they could have been, like otters, mothers and pups. Then I heard a glunk in the lodge below me. Fortunately, the beaver swam out a good ways under water, say 20 yards, surfaced and went right to work down at the dam. About 15 or 20 minutes later it swam back with a small branch.

It dove with its catch

and, I think, went into the lodge. Not only did it come out again, with the same long swim under water,

but I began hearing gnawing over to the right where I couldn't see. Then that beaver swam underwater and surfaced swimming toward the dam. Of course, during the lulls in the beaver activity, I could watch the ducks. Two wood ducks flew in just in the perimeter of where the ring necks were sometimes preening on logs and sometimes fishing. The wood ducks soon flew off in a huff, bothered I am sure by some of the diving ducks. But there was a larger group of wood ducks squealing up in the far end of the pond that I could not see. Then I heard another glunk -- the third beaver. It swam over to the right and then around the dam and then right below me looking up.

This was a baby and I knew that even if it did raise an alarm, the other beavers would probably not pay attention. It seemed to know that too and proceeded to swim out to the grasses sticking in clumps about ten yards out from the lodge, perhaps where it had hid some morsels to munch. It didn't seem to find what it wanted, dove a few times into the cache, and then swam off to the dam to join the adults. Cold as it was what I took for wood frogs, summing up the season for the last time, sang on the ridges around the pond. Then I heard a strange screech below the dam, that must have been a rail, perhaps startled by the beavers. Then I heard some ferocious splashing right over in the area where I was hoping to see otters. There was no flapping after the splashing, so it might not be a duck. But with otters, the splashing moves, and, alas, over the next ten minutes this splashing didn't. Then I heard another glunk from the lodge but saw ripples coming out of the underwater entrance nearer me. I expected a muskrat and a large one emerged, ducked around the lodge a bit, and then swam roughly over to where I heard the splashing.

Now, muskrat splashing which I did see last year has a tendency to stay in the same place. And after seeing otters go in there, a day or two later I heard screeching and saw a muskrat swim away. I thought otters might have scared it off and I did see something furiously wave a tail -- as otters can do. Now seeing that muskrat swim toward the splashing, I wonder if it is not muskrat territory, and the otters were just briefly borrowing the accommodations they have in there. Meanwhile, the sun was down and accompanying the warm golden glow in the crowns of the pines and oaks was a chilling of the bones. I went back to the boat via the East Trail Pond where I saw shadows on the lodge but no otters. Then I went up the ridge to Otter Hole Pond, saw fresh beaver work, better photographed in daylight, and gazed down on a placid Otter Hole Pond.

October 19 even colder today, just above 40, with low fast moving clouds giving away as the sun went down. To me this is prime otter watching weather because the cold does away with many distractions, even the birds move more quickly so they are harder to identify. Also the wind came out of the north. I headed to the Big Pond via the first swamp ridge, and soon saw that there was not much doing, even the ducks and geese had gone. I checked for new otter scats and saw nothing, and no sign of beaver work either. So I crossed the dam and headed up to the Lost Swamp Pond, still confident. Last year at about this time I saw two if not three groups of otters converge in the Lost Swamp providing some excellent otter watching. I soon saw there was no riot today, and settled under a tree to study the three lodges. The smallest and nearest showed signs of being lounged on. The grasses that had been put up on the lodge looked smoothed down and wet. The lodge by the dam, where the cache is, looked unchanged from my last visit. But the lodge far out in the upper end of the pond had two brown spots which seemed to be a deeper brown color than a mere shadow. Of course, I kept thinking I saw movement with the naked eye and then checked with the monocular to see all as before. Then after fifteen minutes I was almost certain a bit of dark brown arched up. I kept studying it and for the next half hour it didn't move. Finally just before the cold forced me to move on, one brown blur turned into a large otter that went on top of the lodge and scatted, and then went over and nuzzled the other otter awake. As far as I could tell, both otters lay back down on the lodge.

I waited another 15 minutes hoping they would do some fishing -- the wind was almost perfect, but the otters didn't budge. I assume there are only two and that they are the same two I've been seeing in this and the Big Pond for the last couple of weeks. As I walked slowly around the pond, I saw new, but not fresh scat in the mossy cove. I also noticed some black lathered on rocks just out of the water.

That gave me pause and poking it a bit I could see it was not otter scat. Perhaps muskrats have pushed it up, perhaps the cold has blackened the usual slime and algae. The beavers took down another maple tree and I could see cuts on three more.

Rather beautiful and melancholy to see their lovely crowns brought down forever. One consolation is that the beavers seem to relish maple especially at this time of year.

As I went up the scatless north slope to check on the upper Second Swamp Pond, I saw that it was filled with ducks, so I tried to gingerly move away, to no avail, about 40 ducks flew off, the first large concentrated flock of the season. With the north wind I thought it more productive to stay on the south side of the ponds. Down in the main section of the Second Swamp Pond, I saw the ring neck ducks again, just a half dozen. I eased my way out on the dam and thought I saw new scat on the latrine there but nothing fresh, except one scat in a puddle which may have been a raccoon's. Then when I looked up I saw the wake of something that dove into the pond. It could well have been an otter since it was an hour before these beavers usually stir. I waited for it to reappear but it didn't, leaving me to believe it was a muskrat who would have been most comfortable secreting itself in the nearby grasses. While I waited a lopsided chevron of geese flew over, heading south.

I back tracked and went down to Otter Hole Pond, still very shallow and I couldn't find any new otter scat. Finally going to the East Trail Pond I photographed the downed maple I saw two days ago. There were no scats on top of the fresh blanket of pine needles. I sat at my lucky spot and no otters appeared, but it was quite beautiful as the clouds were gone and the golden sun infusing half the pond.

Heading up to the East Trail I saw that a beaver had gone well up the ridge and taken one small serviceberry tree.

October 22 the night before last we had a series of storms, complete with lightning and thunder, roll through, and briefly, in the dark of night, the temperature got up to 55. Then yesterday morning it was all cold rain and around 40, and this morning it was cloudy and just above freezing. The wind was out of the north which made it prime otter watching weather for me. As is my habit now, I went to the Big Pond via the first swamp ridge. The wind swept pond had a few ducks on it; no otters, though there appeared to be a fresh scat in the latrine across from where I usually sit. Judging the freshness of scat in this damp cold weather is a challenge (and no bugs about to add their opinion) but this was glistening. No beaver work along the dam but at the other end a little grass had been brought up either by a beaver or muskrat.

The Lost Swamp Pond was pulsing with ducks and I lay back a bit so as not to send them flying. I noticed a lot more grass on the nearby lodge, but no otters.

Then when I scanned the water around the far lodge, I saw a back arch into the water, clearly an otter. I waited, and waited, and saw nothing else. This perplexed me not a little. And it was a cold wind blowing through me. When I decided to move on, I saw some diving in the water nearby and poised for an otter, but it was a mink. I held my ground and, as always, it didn't care and scooted along the shore right by me.

I slowly moved on after it, as I went to check the otter latrines. (If I saw a fresh scat I would say I did see an otter.) At the mossy cove I scanned the north shore for the mink, and there, at the old rolling area, were two otters. The cold wind in my face suddenly didn't seem so cold. They were rolling in the grass, nuzzling, and arching their heads up quite a bit.

I began to get the impression that these were two pups, but tried to look for leadership qualities in one of them.

One did go into water first and the other hopped after it, in definite puppy fashion. They foraged over to the dam; one got a fish and brought it to a rock by the dam and started eating it

but stopped that and fished some more. They both came a little ways toward me, now and then parking themselves on logs to eat

Then one took off on a cruise first going to the west, then toward me, quietly chirping. I first had the impression it was looking for the other otter, and then as it headed for me that it had scented me, though it didn't look alarmed.

The other otter was back at the rolling area, where it found another fish to eat,

then back in the water and the other came and they were up on shore again. They both definitely pranced like pups, I thought. And I thought they were fleeing, but they did fish behind the dam some more. Then one scatted on the big rock behind the beavers' lodge. It soon got back in the water and the other swam around the beavers' cache and I didn't see them anymore. I assumed they joined the beavers in the lodge, or went around to the burrows along the shore on the other side of the rock. So I went to check their scat: not necessarily anything fresh at the mossy cove, and one new scat at the north slope. The big news there is the complete segmenting job the beavers did on the last maple to fall,

with only one five foot long log left behind.

Other maples will soon fall and beavers continue stripping bark off the big trunks. I went up to the rolling area and found a six inch bullhead with just its tail bitten off, more or less still alive. On the video I can see one of the otters gnawing its tail and then running off into the water to join the other otter.

There were scats all around too.

Then I saw one otter nearby at the dam and then the other swam over toward it and they swam toward me ducking here and there along the shore.

One came within about ten feet of me, while the other was climbing up on the bank I was sitting on. Finally the lead otter saw me and splashed into the pond, the other followed. They both surfaced about twenty yards out in the pond and gave me the business, blowing and periscoping.

I finally blew back and they stayed on my case, until I stood up (thinking that if I retreated they were so naive or brave that they would come up and get the half eaten bullhead.) But they surfaced just behind the little lodge in the pond, blew some more, disappeared again and I heard some more blowing but didn't see them. My gut feeling is that these are two pups and the mother has that back I saw in the far end of the pond. If so, this is a rather advanced family to let the pups be so independent and I should hold judgment until I do see the three together again. Up at the dam I saw the remains of the bullhead I saw one of the otters eating.

I should also mention that the cache by the lodge has mushroomed, with big lumber, too.

I hurried through the rest of the hike; noticed another hole in the upper second swamp pond dam

and beaver work in a canal in the upper end of the second swamp pond -- trying to forage far from the lodge while they can.

There were more large flocks of ducks here. I would say I sent upwards of 300 ducks into the air today. The East Trail Pond was quiet with the six geese and no new scats on the pine needles. You can bet I flew home.

October 23 another cloudy cold morning with a north wind, perfect for otter watching and I wanted to see if there was a family of three at the Lost Swamp Pond. I went to the Big Pond by the first swamp ridge, then when I got up toward the pond, I saw something black slithering high on the shore. I ducked thinking it was the otters, but it turned out to be geese browsing through the shallows.

There were three large flocks, a good 100 geese, probably migratory. They certainly didn't want to fly off. I scanned for otters, and, seeing no fresh scat decided to move on to the Lost Swamp Pond. Today was a little bit colder than yesterday and I was disappointed not to see the otters out. I still hunkered down for a vigil but after a half hour decided I had to move. There was no fresh scat at the mossy cove and nothing new at the north slope. The beavers have almost cut enough of another maple to bring it down.

In this cloudy somewhat damp weather I can always see better and I paused to appreciate the gnawing on the maple trunk and log. As I'd expect there were large and small tooth marks.

The top of the trunk of one of the first maples to come down looks like it is being gnawed over again.

Then as I went along the pond, I noticed some tentative nibbles on a huge old maple on the ridge.

Up at the rolling area, I was gratified to see the bullhead gone and fresh scat left behind. The scat seemed exceptionally juicy,

as fast and loose as the otter scats I saw yesterday, with much, it seems to me, that may well be picked through by a not too fastidious bird.

So I'm confident that the otters came back despite the bother I gave them. The smaller bullhead head was gone too, and, by the way, the head of the other bullhead was no where to be seen. I was about to continue on my way, when I looked up and saw a puffed up otter cruising from the point of land across from where I had been sitting, heading for the lodge out in the pond. When I say puffed up, I mean its tail was cocked up, and not only were the head and neck out of the water, so was the body. I went for the monocular instead of the camcorder, wanting to be certain it was an otter. I focused on the wrong thing and when I looked out I saw it cruising back to the grassy point in the same stately fashion. Of course, the strong wind was at my back, and I think the otter purposely showed itself in this puffed up fashion to intimidate me. This seemed to be a large otter, and I was reminded of the otters I saw in the Big Pond, when two swam together in normal otter fashion, and another larger one floated in the middle of the pond. But all this supposing is for naught, I think, until I see the three otters together with a mother in charge. I walked back around the pond, to make sure the otters weren't up at the other end. They weren't, and I took a photo of where the otter had emerged.

This area had been used as a latrine a few years ago, and it is a favorite spot for muskrats, though I never thought they had a burrow over there. Yesterday, the otters had not gone on the lodge the beavers are using, and maybe they have been kept out of the other lodge too. I took the shortcut down to the Second Swamp Pond, scaring away ducks and geese. I checked the latrine on the dam where I had theorized the three otters had scatted, there was nothing new there. Nothing new at Otter Hole Pond. I did scare off a duck and a heron. The East Trail Pond was out of the wind, quite placid, and would have been a nice place to sit even with a few balls of icy snow coming down, but there was no fresh scat, and I was cold. I checked the knoll above the New Pond, no scat there, and I saw two deer prancing up and over beaver point.

October 25 Chilly morning but warming with rain on the way. I saw no reason to vary my route of recent days. Once again I moved the geese back at the Big Pond.

No new scat there nor any sign of beavers, so I moved on to the Lost Swamp Pond, and sat, as usual, so I could see the three lodges. Less duck activity today and blue jays back in the woods telling me what a fool I am. The wind was out of the southeast which means sitting behind the rolling area where I saw the otters the other day would be perfect. So I decided to walk around the pond and if I saw fresh scat to start a vigil. As I got up I looked at the nearest lodge and an otter was on top of it. This was good news for one of my hunches -- that the otters put the grass on top of that lodge. Now I hoped to see three otters, to prove my hunch about the family. But there were only two and they swam off the lodge and started fishing to the east. That afforded me the opportunity of walking around the western end of the pond, and sneaking up on the hill and hiding in the brown grass stalks behind the rolling area. I managed all that in fine fashion and the otters were fishing around the point just across from me. Then one went up on a rock over there, scatted, and, to my chagrin, the other came up on the rock too. They moved to the grass behind the rock and started rolling there, and nuzzling. Then they hopped back into the water, swam around the point and I lost sight of them as they swam up the other, and much larger, section of the pond.

I know it might be a while before they swam back my way. So I checked the rolling area just below me, and saw fresh scat. I also saw that the fish parts in their old scat that I thought some bird might be brave enough to take were still there, drying out in the scat. Meanwhile the beavers have brought some more big lumber to the lodge by the dam.

I didn't learn too much from watching the otters, but how they behaved was consistent with there being a mother and a pup. One definitely has puppy like motions, and as the other left, the puppy was nosing along the shore and then leaped out to follow the other. I continued on down to the Second Swamp Pond lodge where the cache grows but in a scrubby way.

I like the mostly lumberless look of it and I bet if I checked the photos of last year's pile there was probably a lot more wood. I hate to mention how many ducks I flushed giving me a rousing flying ovation I do not deserve. I went down to check the big cut-but-not-down poplar and nothing has changed there except some gnawing on a small tree even closer to where the Second Swamp Pond beavers are doing their lumbering. I checked the leaves and could not discern any paths. Closer to the East Trail Pond dam a beaver left a log in the middle of the slope from the ridge

and their leftovers litter that corner of the dam. The East Trail Pond was quiet until the geese started debating. The usual bunch reconciled themselves to my presence but as I moved around the pond, another bunch got into a panic and flew off, sending them all off, leaving me with a very quiet pond. Despite not seeing any new scats, I sat down and enjoyed the stillness still golden on this dreary day. A few sprinkles of rain and then a rush of wind behind me inspired me to move on. I went down and around to check the Thicket Pond where the beavers' masterful work continues.

They continue to add ash to their collections of maples, and now some red oak. The leaves are down on the button bushes so it is easier to see into the pond.

The time changes tonight and these and the Second Swamp Pond beavers will be the best to watch for at dusk. Flushed a heron out of the smaller South Bay cove. The ravens were quiet today. Showers just after I got inside the house.

October 28 rain on the 26th and 27th kept me out of the ponds, at least two inches, and passing cold during it all. With sun this morning we were off in the boat to South Bay. Up at Audubon Pond we saw a large bryozoa,

nothing but jelly apparently. With limited wave action in the pond the jelly has not broken up as it seems to do in South Bay. There were no signs of otters and I didn't get close enough to see if the still damp beaver lodge had been amended by any beavers. Didn't look like it from afar. There was an old small beaver log next to the bryozoa but it didn't look like fresh work. Then we headed for the Lost Swamp to see if the otters were still there. Going up to the ponds from South Bay we flushed one grouse, then another, then another, all told eight of them most flying off the trees, and they all seemed to fly off into the woods going in different directions. All the rain water was washing through the series of once glorious ponds. Not many ducks today, but the ravens were vocal again. There was a southwest wind cheating to the south which made it difficult to approach the ponds correctly. Standing at the northwest corner of the Lost Swamp Pond I saw something swimming into the lodge in the middle of that section of the pond. I suspected a muskrat but it could have been an otter finding shelter as it noticed we were there. We walked up toward the lodge and finding generous fresh scats on the old rolling area, including two almost clear.

Then closer to the dam there were two big scaly black/gray scats on rocks.

We sat down to see if otters might appear. Now the wind was blowing gently into our face. Then I saw a little muskrat swim into the lodge, a very good indication that the other animal going there was a muskrat too. After waiting about 20 minutes, we, that is me, Leslie and our friend Steve, walked around the pond to get a look down the long section of it. At the west end of the pond the beavers cut down, decrowned and half segmented the maple they had been working on and more maples had been gnawed.

They also keep gnawing on the tree that had been half girdled two years ago.

Up at the point I trained the monocular on the faraway lodge and saw brown lumps on top and little behind the top of the lodge that soon squirmed. Though I never saw two heads or two tails at once, I think there were two otters up there. We waited for about half hour for them to swim off and they never did. The wait was made more exciting by a muskrat who swam over to the lodge near us and sat on its edge just out of the water and nibbled on something. After crediting the otters with putting grass on top of the lodge, I now must credit the muskrats who are clearly planning to make this their winter home. The muskrat stayed despite our squirming and talking. A red bellied woodpecker also flew by, latched onto a few trees but hurried off. Plus the view with a huge red maple in the background was enchanting.

Leslie suggested that the otters kept looking up and lying back down because they saw us. So we went behind a small hill for five minutes, but that didn't inspire them to get off the lodge. We headed back roughly the way we came and I noted a few mushrooms. One was pinkish violet

and the other orange butter with slime too.

October 30 sunny day, warming, and with a brisk southwest wind. I figured it was best approaching the Lost Swamp Pond from the north and headed for the East Trail Pond. I checked the knoll at the New Pond first and saw no scats on the fallen leaves. The water is gushing out of the ponds which means no beaver has patched the leaking dams above. As I came over the rock overlooking the East Trail Pond, I saw ripples, but from a good number of ducks. I hung back and crossed over to the ridge overlooking Otter Hole Pond. A heron flew below me and into the pond, but no sign of otters. I went back to the East Trail Pond going down the usual ridge trail. The beavers continue to work up there

and they managed to get through and completely segment and move away one of the maples that was hung up. There were no scats on the trail down to the pond. Otters are due to get back into this pond soon. I crossed the creek below the dam, which was running nicely too, just because the pond level was so high. I checked on the beavers' poplar work and they are progressing well on the one that is down.

The hanging one seems to have stymied them and I see little fresh work in that direction. I checked the Second Swamp Pond lodge which looked about the same. One redpoll was in a cedar. I scanned the pond raked by the wind and saw nothing swimming. Going up the north shore I did see fresh beaver work -- one small tree, and paths back into the woods that I didn't follow. However I did get into a bit of swamp and a vole darted out of one puddle, and I noticed that it didn't, as usual, go directly to a hiding place. So I did the impossible - a photo of a vole out in the swamps.

It's easier to see the tail than the furry brown thing. The upper pond was completely full, with no leaks, yet I could see no beaver activity other than the obvious -- the dam was patched.

I had camcorder running when I went up to the Lost Swamp Pond, but other than three huge waves of ducks and geese taking off, nothing was happening. I soon saw that otters had been there, more fresh scats. Some on the rock they used the other day and some on the grass just out of the pond. Plus just beyond where a bare patch had been scraped in the grass, I saw there were two holes being dug perhaps by the otters.

So I moved back into the dead dogbane and waited. A muskrat soon appeared, sparkling wake in the low sun. It came to the lodge and then walked over it from one end to the other, much the same way as muskrats walk along a log. Then it swam back to where it had first climbed up on the lodge, and two other muskrats were there and all three went onto the edge of the lodge and I wasn't sure what they were doing. Soon one muskrat swam off to the east and another swam off to the west.

Last year in late September I saw two muskrats using their tails to make jet trails. I'm wondering if rats at this time of year advertise for roommates for the winter. They won't be making babies until the late winter, but why share a lodge with just any rat? After waiting a half hour I gave up on the otters, plus the wind was shifting a bit to my back. I walked around the pond, noting no major new trees downed by the beaver, and then up to get a monocular on the upper lodge. To my surprise there was no otter on it. I waited a bit and then a muskrat returning to their lodge, and a muskrat foraging in the pond right next to me provided some distraction.

I also noticed that the beavers put a very long freshly stripped log in their cache pile.

I decided some falls ago that this very large bit of leftovers does service by weighing down and stabilizing the cache pile. As I turned to leave I noticed a dead frog stuck in the grass

I knew it was stuck because I tried to pull it off. I checked the mossy cove latrine and found a clear brownish scat and a fresh black scat on a freshly fallen leaf.

I went to the Big Pond to see if the otters were there, and just when the lodge came into view I saw that the otters were on it.

Here the wind was still from the southwest and I could see that by walking a little farther my scent would betray me. However I didn't have a good view so I got the great notion of sneaking up behind the otters, keeping the wind in my face. But merely moving a leg to effect this resolve caused an otter's head to pop up, and one otter disappeared and then the other. I did walk around to get behind the lodge, then saw they were fishing on the other side of the pond. I got some video of that and then found a place to hide in case they swam right back to the lodge, but I soon saw that they had disappeared, probably back into the grasses.

The otters I've be seeing this year are very adept at hiding in the grasses and cattails, perhaps because they were out in South Bay a good bit where the cattail marsh is the best hideout. I crossed the dam, which was overflowing. I checked the latrine on the other side of the dam, and there were no new scats. The otters have probably just returned to this pond. No sign of beaver work but with this flood they might come down for some patching. Deer were scarce and I saw one garter snake.

October 31 sunny and still but when I got to the Big Pond the wind rushed up from behind me. No otters to be seen though and no fresh scat in their old latrine by the dam. As I crossed the dam I did find two fresh scats in openings in the grass. No sign that beavers had pushed up mud along the leaking dam. As I stood at the north end of the dam, now out of the wind, scanning the pond for otters, a young deer ran between me and the woods. Then I noticed two larger does about to follow it but they thought better of that. Instead of fleeing though, they moved up in the woods and moved quietly to the west. I wonder if this migration has anything to do with hunters. Tomorrow this area is opened to archers, and the thought of that made my hike a bit more melancholy. I will still come out, but not as often. The wind was not good for approaching the Lost Swamp Pond. I nosed up so I could scan the lodge and pond with the monocular, and many geese flew off, saw no otters. I checked the mossy latrine and there may have been a new scat, but probably not. The beavers did not seem to be too active either. The excitement at the base of one cut maple were two garter snakes sunning themselves.

No new scat up at the rolling area, but I still plopped myself down hoping for some muskrat action at least. They didn't make an appearance. Activity in a pond is never consistent. There will be almost a week when everything seems in motion and then a day of nothing. By now it was rather warm and insects were responding, principally flies and this wee red mite.

I did hear a beaver or two humming briefly in the lodge by the dam. I went down to the Second Pond lodge and then over to the East Trail Pond, large ducks took off when I entered and then chickadees entertained me. The cache outside the lodge had an old look about it, as if no fresh sticks had been brought up for a while.

As I stood over it wondering if the beavers might have relocated, a small something swam out of the lodge. I assume the smaller beaver, but I didn't see it surface anywhere. To return I decided to cross the Second Swamp Pond dam. The area from where they are taking trees has not expanded, and they have left much behind for gnawing in place. Indeed up on the rock at the end of the dam they are girdling a small white oak. Last year they girdled one on the other side of the rock. Meanwhile a small birch near by has been tasted, and a birch as large around as the oak is untouched.

Crossing below the dam was not easy but interesting. They may have opened a little section, the pathway down to the pool where they are doing work,

thus keeping that pool flooded. Otherwise they not only have patched every possible leak with mud, but have built up the height of the dam by a good 4 inches.

I saw some old otter scat at the main channel down to Otter Hole Pond -- no leak at that part of the dam. And possibly a fresh scat at the runway the otters had been using to cut up from the channel and cross the dam away from where the beavers are concentrating their repair activity. Last year the beavers had kept crossing over the dam to harvest small trees into winter, not so this year. Crossing the dam I could see and somewhat feel with my feet what the beavers are thinking. I continued on to the Big Pond so I could approach it with the wind in my face, just in case otters were there. No sign of them. I did see some hooded mergansers diving in the far end of the pond. I walked down the old trail to South Bay, which nine years ago was my wonderland of beavers. Except for the Middle Pond, which has barely enough water to call it a pond, all the other storied ponds are empty. Crossing what I once called "the last pond dam" I saw some fresh mink scat on a rock next to the stream. The pond where I first tried to photograph beavers, always a small pond, is almost all grass.

The end of a good month, and still hearing "spring" peepers.